God the Father

God often perplexes me. One way that God perplexes me is that He says that He is my father. As if a father were a good thing. I don’t think so. Somewhere deep down inside of me, maybe in my toes, I may house a faint desire for a father. I have yet to navigate that far into myself, however. I may attempt to find a mother, but I never feel an ounce of interest in creating a father-daughter type relationship with anyone. When I think of father, at best, I draw a blank space in my head. At worst, I recoil and quite literally gag. Now obviously, based on the nature of my blog, we know that there is plenty of trauma crap to serve as a basis for this revulsion toward parental units, but I would like to figure out how to help myself enter deeper into relationship with God the Father.

When I chat with God, we reach an impasse every single time He starts to talk about His parental love for me. I just flat out don’t comprehend it. I would have thought that being a parent would soften my heart for God’s parental role in my life, but it doesn’t seem to translate. I am an adult. I have two beautiful, wonderful, cherished babies, whom I mother whole-heartedly and with great delight. But I can’t seem to place myself in their shoes, as the one delighted in. I believe that I must have spent so much of my childhood reprimanding myself for my silly dreams of being loved and parented that I trained the need to be loved right out of myself. Certainly, I understand that we were created for this relationship. It is primary and at our core, but I just can’t find my own need.

As I read Anne Lamott’s Small Victories, she writes of the need to be welcomed in life and her sense of lack welcome while growing up. I share her experience. No one was around to welcome me into a room, to delight in my presence or long for me when I was absent. I certainly don’t expect to be welcomed. I expect to be a burden or a drain. I live life apologetic of my existence. I caught myself singing to a song with my husband and children the other night and flinched at the awareness of my own voice. Whenever I am made aware of my own voice, whether in conversation or song, I want to cry. I cannot understand how anyone would welcome me anywhere.

God, forgive me for shutting you down when you call yourself my loving Father. Show me what this means, and help me to excavate that anciently-buried need for a father. I believe that the need is there, and I believe that you can revive it. I understand that with its revival will come grief and pain, but I trust that further healing can take place too. I want to experience as much of You as possible in this life, and if that means that you become a parent to me, please redeem parenthood.

Peace

Peace. We pray for peace. We light the peace candle on this, the second Sunday of Advent. We ask for peace on earth. I ask for peace of heart and mind. I may be selfish that I can’t see beyond my weary war-stricken brain to a weary world, but it is where I am. The opposite of peace? For a long time, I have considered peace’s antonym to be division, which seems to be the definition of my internal state. I cannot even go through a train of thought without having an all-out brawl with myself, or one of my selves. This is the state of my parts. Many seem to hate each other. Peace? Not yet. But we aren’t really yet to the idea of peace on earth either. We still have wars and countless conflicts, and the world keeps turning, and we still have Christmas. We still hold onto hope. We hold onto the promises of Christmas. Peace. The second Sunday, followed by joy. JOY. Peace for me is unity, and not a political type of unity. Honestly, if I could achieve an internal unity, I would be in the running for the happiest person on the planet award. Shalom. It means among other things, completion. Wholeness. I long for wholeness. I long for my brain to come untangled and stop pulling against itself, the different threads and chains and ribbons to be woven and braided into something beautiful. For now, it seems like an endless chaos of interminable confusion. For me, the peace that I pray for this Christmas is internal. I need clarity, parts working together. I need my mind to no longer be a war zone but a sanctuary, a cathedral. Lord Jesus, come with PEACE. Shalom.

Breaking down the defenses

Two year ago, when as a newly-wed, I left treatment and moved with my husband to this part of the country, I wanted to start over. Prior to 2012, I was unstable, unpredictable, severely eating disordered, depressed, anxious, and immature. When we moved, something happened. It’s not like I “graduated” from treatment; I was kicked out and then immediately sent to the ER to be evaluated for my suicidality. I was finally released, and I moved to a place where no one had known me previously. I decided that I had to be functional, and I shifted, or switched, or something. After almost 20 years of restriction of food, even in treatment, I started eating normally. After many years of self-destruction, I ceased being a danger to myself. This has continued for two years.

I am skeptical.   I question the validity of this shift. I don’t entirely understand what caused me to become so much healthier. I don’t fear that I will go back. I really have no desire to return to where I was, but I wonder what is brewing under the surface. I am certainly more joyful than I have ever been before, and I am infinitely more responsible and controlled. I wonder, however, am I over-controlled? Have I built up such solid structures around my emotions that they cannot any longer be expressed? Have I reacted to the “immature” me by not allowing any room for play and fun? I know that there are many hurts still to work through, and I am becoming more aware of my dissociative process, but it seems that somehow I have turned off a switch that I cannot locate in order to turn it back on. I am not sure if I have become so bent on “proving” myself as fully functional and perfectly fine that I cannot allow room for brokenness. No one around here knows me as broken and disordered. This is the first time in my life that I have been seen as “healthy.”

I also look back on the “old me” as morally inferior to the “new me.” I have a hard time even thinking about that old girl, and I have very little patience with her and her “absurd” emotional lability. But somehow, I am still she. Inside, I am not on a morally higher plane. God’s grace and love don’t extend to me any more than they extended to her. He loved me just as much for the first several decades of my life as He does now. Oh, but parts of me hate her. They want nothing to do with her massively disordered lifestyle. I am different now. I am a wife and a mother, and not only a wife, but a pastor’s wife! I suspect, however, if I am going to heal, I have to make peace with all of me and accept God’s love for all of me. I need to acknowledge that those broken little kids are still living inside of me and still clamoring to be heard. I struggle to know how to handle them now in my current situation.   I am not a child anymore. I have children. Yes, I have these child parts, but they are not functional, so what do I do with them? Do I have time to let them out and let them communicate? It seems absurd to be in a grown adult’s body and have these little kids inside that need to be loved and nurtured. I am often infuriated by this need. This idea of God as parent seems absurd to me. I don’t need a parent. I’m grown up. Do parents actually need parents too? This defensiveness suggests a deeper need, however, and the loving parent part of me is carrying the defensive parts kicking and screaming to the feet of Father-God. The loving parent part of me that was birthed with my first-born has a heart for these multitudes of broken little children inside of me, and wants to see them loved to wholeness. It also knows that as broken as I still am, I can’t love my own external children as fully as I want to love them. I am just not sure how to go about letting down my defenses. Maybe I will ask God for help, since I guess that’s what fathers like to do: Help us. And I suppose that I am not wholly self-sufficient. That’s a first step, right?

Let the Little Children Come

I stopped writing.  I got scared.  I feel like when I write, I open up parts of myself that need to be shut off forever.  The problem with shutting them off, however, is that they don’t really shut down.  They just come out when my guard is down, namely, at night.  And they don’t go away.  When I relegate those poor little parts into their dungeon, they clamor and fight to be heard, and if they can’t be heard in my waking, they will make themselves known in my sleeping.  And I really want to sleep. Like REALLY want to sleep.  So here’s to hoping that letting them out a little bit here and there will better my nights.  

I am skeptical, however. I am not a child.  I am a grown woman. I don’t want to entertain child parts.  I don’t want to consider any part of myself a child.  I have a big, grown-up body, and I have my own children.  I do the picking up and cuddling.  I take care of little ones.  I am not a little one who needs to be taken care of.  Those days are over.  Those needs were not met, and they never will be.  Thus, it is time to move on, not regress.  But evidently, it doesn’t matter how stubborn I am, I still have frustrating unmet needs.  A couple of weeks ago,  I listened to a sermon on imaginative prayer.  I took the bait, opened myself up, and asked Jesus to show Himself to me.  I was skeptical, as I always am, even though I have seen Him do it before.  He did it again, and I guess that I can’t deny it.  I know that it was Him because it made me spitting-angry.  I was a little tiny one, like under a year old, and He picked me up.  I wrapped my arms around his neck, and my legs around his chest, just like my little one does with me.  It was like it was supposed to be.  

Now as far as the Trinity goes,  I understand that Jesus is separate from God the Father, but in this picture, He showed himself to me in a parental role.  I despise the image of God in a parental role.  Well,  I guess that I just despise the thought of “parent” in general.  But this vision was just so “right.”  Like with my little one, who wraps herself around me when I scoop her up,  I wrapped myself around Jesus.  She doesn’t just “fit” around anyone like she fits around her mommy.  This should be a happy picture, right?  Well, I was furious.  I am the parent.  I am the protector.  I don’t need one.  At least, that is how I feel.  Well, evidently I freaking need one.  And I am ticked.  I am a little kid.  I am actually a bunch of little kids, trapped in a dungeon, and Jesus stepped into my prison and scooped me up.  

Why does something that is supposed to be good feel so dissonant?  Why can’t I accept this act of love and nurture and allow Jesus to love me as a little child?  He makes it so clear that He loves the little children.  Over and over.  Probably more than anything else.  He loves us as children.  But I HATE me as a child.  That’s why I kept those prisons that were created so many years ago.  How do I let Him love me?  How can I breathe in this truth from Him? I am so scared to open back up to Him, because I want no awareness of those broken, hurting child parts.  But doesn’t the awareness usher in healing?  Can I see my little children and let Him welcome them?  The kingdom is theirs.  He loves them, so what right do I have despising them? 

Responses of the Limbic System

Every time my childhood forces itself into my current existence, I encounter a very violent visceral response.  Whether it is a call from one of my parents or a random, unsolicited memory,  my whole body reels back and tries to slam my head into the nearest solid surface.  Fortunately,  I fight back, and so far over the past two years,  my willpower has won every time.  It is distressing, however, and I hate that my knee-jerk, reflexive reaction is such a violent act toward myself.  I really hate this reflex when I have another life growing inside of me and two other lives who are externally wrapped up in mine.  Before I was connected, I fought less against the urges.  Now that I am in relationship,  any injury to myself will injure three other people at least.  This awareness is wonderful in preventing destructive behavior, but I am distressed by the intensity of the urges.

Why head-banging?  I am baffled.  I guess that it is obvious that I am angry.  How many people, when reminded of their parents or their childhood want to violently charge the nearest wall and knock themselves into oblivion?  I mean, that’s intense.  I think that the intensity is what is appealing.  There is such an intensity of emotion that arises, that my body seems to respond with an equally intense behavior.   Also, it seems that violence is programmed into my very being when I think about my childhood.  I guess another theory is that I just want to slam all of the unwanted thoughts out of my head.  The problem with the slamming is that depending on the location, I might just slam every thought out of my head.  I suppose that this is why lobotomies were discontinued.

So obviously head-banging in response to these triggers is a bad idea all-around.  How do I respond to this head-banging urge?  Do I analyze it to understand the source of this specific urge? Do I simply choose not to act on it and live with the intensity of emotion that seems to have no behavioral match?  Is it a matter of cognitive-behavioral understanding?  Or does it bypass the cognitive and live in a much more sensory-motor location?  It seems that this is mostly limbic cortex stuff.

I guess that in my awareness of my impulses,  I am also baffled by them.  While it is great to refrain from self-destructive behavior,  it is still distressing to have to fight the impulses with every ounce of your energy.   I’m tired of fighting these children inside who are in such distress.  I want to help them, but I don’t know how.  I am open for them to tell me.

The Child in the Mirror

I knew that I really hated some child parts, but I didn’t realize quite how much I hated the ten-year-old until Sunday.  If I had compassion for her, the whole experience would have broken my heart.  Instead, it left me feeling haunted and incredibly anxious.

Allow me to set the stage:  We had a terrible night with the little one on Saturday night.  Baby screamed for hours.  My eyes were killing me on Sunday morning because I have a bad habit of never taking my contacts out. So I finally caved and put my glasses on.  Baby and I were sick with some sinus junk, so we were both pretty puny.  Morning sickness with baby number two was terrible on Sunday, and it was incredibly difficult to imagine standing at the bathroom counter to wash my face, let alone do the whole girly make-up, hair thing.  I also hadn’t plucked or waxed my eyebrows in a long time, well, because I have an infant, and for some reason, early pregnancy seems to preclude eyebrow care.

In spite of the adversity, there I stood, at the bathroom counter.  I glanced in the mirror, and to my horror, my ten-year-old self stared back at me.  That girl, with the glasses, the bushy eyebrows, the tired eyes, and the crazy frizzy hair.  I felt like I was in a horror movie.  I was torn.  I wanted to scream and run out of the bathroom away from that horrible girl, but I knew that she was me and would follow me, so I had to stay and fix it.  I had to stay in front of the mirror and kill her.  I frantically straightened my hair.  The ten-year-old has no idea what straight hair is like. She doesn’t own a flat iron.  I had to use the mirror, but my stomach lurched every time that I looked into it. Morning sickness and flashbacks DO NOT go well together. The flat iron process took too long, and once my hair was unequivocally straightened,  the ten-year-old was still there staring at me.  Still shaking,  I took out the makeup.  The child was still three years away from make-up.  So I tried to paint over her face, desperately wiping her out.  I finally was able to see a semblance of adult me in the mirror, so I quickly fled the bathroom, to get as far away from that mirror as possible.  For the rest of the day, I was haunted by that ten-year-old.

Cognitively I know that she’s just a traumatized little kid.  Emotionally, I feel repulsed by her. I feel so disgusted with her and shaming of her.  The thing about my ten-year-old is that she is the manifestation of all of the socially “unacceptable” symptoms of the trauma.  She is severely OCD, dissociative, anxious, depressed.  She predated the anorexia, which became the phenomenon that consumed all of the other symptoms.  With the anorexia,  I felt that I had successfully killed the child parts.  Now that I am no longer symptomatic with the anorexia, those children are rearing their heads again.  And they have stories that I don’t want to hear.

So maybe next time, instead of painting the children away, or flat ironing them out of existence,  I can have a conversation with them.  They have a right to be heard.  So next time the ten-year-old greets me in the mirror with her sad, exhausted, anxious eyes, I will try to honor her.